Module 3: Counter-action
In this module we look at differnt forms of counter-actions. Ranging from reporting and removing all the way to counter speech, counter campaigns and even more.
Resources mentioned or used in this module:
Being an ally in the newsroom
- How do I report inappropriate or abusive things on Facebook (example: nudity, hate speech, threats)?
- How do I hide or delete a comment from a post on my Page?
- How to ban someone from your page? (scroll down to the bottom for banning)
- The Seriously tool (in French) to construct counter-speech
- Counter-speech dos and don’ts by the Dangerous Project
- How to counter hate speech on Twitter by the Get the Trolls out project
Welcome to the third module on counteraction. In this module, we have a lot to cover but we already know what hate speech is and we already feel safe and secure when it comes to the online world. Now we're going to talk about what actions are available. We're going to first discuss how you can be an ally in the newsroom and for your journalist colleagues. Then we'll move on to the three main things that you need to consider before deciding which type of contraction you would like to choose. We will then focus on three main contractions; counter-speech, reporting and removing and counter campaigns. We'll also mention other options throughout the way. Eventually, we're going to conclude this module with a roadmap of actions that you can use in the future to decide what you would like to do when it comes to hate speech.
The first contraction and underlining all other contractions is being an ally, meaning being there for your colleagues or friends or someone that you know, who's being targeted by hate speech. Support can come in different forms depending on your professional or personal relationship with the victim. The best guide for being an ally has been developed by the Union of Journalists in Finland which is really an excellent advice kit and I strongly recommend you to download it and study it in detail. I could go on and talk about this in for an hour but I won't because I trust that you're going to download it. It's very useful for the reason that it provides specific guidance and advice for supervisors, for colleagues and also for the case if you are the victim of a hate speech attack. This is something that you could print and tape it on the office wall for example.
If you've been inspired by the previous safety part and you feel like this is something that you should be putting on the agenda of your news organization, you can have a look at the holistic security guide that has dedicated sections on communicating about safety, scheduling regular talks about security and also building trust with other team members in your organization. You can also find the guide in resources as usual.
Before jumping into counter actions, let's talk about first what you need to consider because there are certain factors that influence what the best option is when it comes to countering hate speech. First of all, you need to consider how much time you have at your hand. Do you have only a second to do something minute or you have enough time to roll up your sleeves and get really engaged? This is something that will impact what kind of contractions you might take. If you're short on time, you might just report something to social media companies. If you have a lot of time you might start planning a counter-campaign.
The second item that you need to consider is basically manpower. Are you working alone? Are you a freelance journalist or you may be working in groups or you have colleagues who are also interested in taking action together. This again will influence whether you do something that's a solo action or you might again think about a counter-campaign that tends to require a bigger group. Although not necessary, you can also plan something on your own.
The third point that you need to consider when it comes to counteraction is what impact you're aiming for. Do you want a short term solution that is more like a plaster on your bruise but does not address the source of the problem such as removing a piece of hateful content online or you'd like to have something long term that tends to have an educational component such as counter-speech or counter-campaigns? That actually results in influencing, hopefully even changing the mind of the person who's sharing hate speech. Before discussing in detail what counter actions are possible that are the result of your considerations based on the previous three points, we first need to talk about When you need to turn to the police because when it comes to reporting and removing, in general, we mean reporting to social media companies. There are cases when you need to report to the police. Such cases are when threats are imminent, likely and intended. When a threat meets these three criteria, you have to report to police but first of all, you need to save the URL and you need to take a screenshot of the post. The reason for that is that social media companies might remove the post, especially if it's illegal. You have no evidence if you don't have the screenshot. These two are mandatory. I'm again, underlining it three times. Take the screenshot, save the URL.
Another thing that can be very helpful in terms of counteraction is to do your research in advance. You might already realize countering hate speech is a lot about prevention and preparation. Make sure that you research in your country and in your own context if there are NGOs that deal with hate speech victims. Do the police have cybercrime or hate speech department? Who are the contact points that you can turn to if you happen to be in the middle of a hate store? There might be a hotline available in your country where you can report. Having these contacts written down and saved at one point or at one document is extremely useful when you're in a situation where you need to report to police or you need help.
Just to recap, when you need to turn to the police. Basically, if these three criteria there are two that are being met, then you need to turn to the police. I'm making sure that you're recording this and making note of this. If there is a threat for taking a real-life action, if there is a definite time and if there is a definite location, that's already a reason to be afraid that there will be physical assault following the promise.
Another very useful tip on saving the URL as it can be confusing, it's how to do that. If you click on the post itself, it might just take you to the page or the account page. You need to click on the exact time that is now circled in red. When you click on the post timing, it will take you to the exact URL of that certain post and that way, when you save that link, you're going to have it pointing directly to that comment or picture or whichever post it is. It works both on Facebook and Twitter. That's something that you can take advantage of. Reporting to social media and having certain hate speech removed is the most basic counteraction that is out there. It's advantageous that it's quite fast. You don't need a lot of time to report a piece of content and that it also, if we're talking about illegal hate speech, it can get removed relatively quickly. The disadvantage comes from that as well. While relatively quickly means less than 24 hours, for the internet, it's almost eternity. If the message is there for 24 hours, it can already cause great harms and circulate the internet. Just think of the Christchurch shooting and the video of it that went around the globe within minutes, basically. 24 hours is not a short time for the internet. After all, it doesn't get removed that quickly. You also need to be aware that if the piece that you're reporting does not fall, it's not illegal, then it's less likely to be removed, which means that it might stay online even if it's harmful.
When to use reporting. Reporting is great when you have very little time when you don't want to go and engage further. When you need a quick action basically, the only time when it can fail you is when you're exposed to targeted and organized attack. Reporting is fast when you receive one or two hateful comments. When you're receiving hundreds or thousands, it's not going to be helpful. In that case, you also need your colleagues to keep reporting and removing hate speech and even that might not be a solution to it. How to use is described for you on their resources. Both Facebook and Twitter and Instagram have dedicated pages about how you can report harmful and hateful content. Make sure you check them out to be prepared.
Another alternative of reporting and removing is hiding or banning. You can hide a comment so that the person who shares it sees it but others won't be able to see it. If you receive hateful messages repeatedly from a single person, you can also ban them from your page. This is something that you can only do if you're admin of the page. You cannot do it if you're just a regular visitor there. Keep that in mind. Tips and guidelines for how to ban, hide or unfollow certain people, you can find it under resources.
Counter-speech is the most creative form of counteractions. You can use it very free. That's its advantage. You can use it anytime you want, wherever you want, you can add your comment to an ongoing discussion, you can also post proactively to provide an alternative or a counter-narrative to something. Its flexibility is its greatest advantage. The disadvantage of counter-speech is that while you're adding more to this session and while you're also targeting directly those who are spreading hate online, you're also exposing yourself. Haters tend to prefer and sometimes it really works is fire freedom if the person they are attacking actually responds. This is one of the case when counter-speech might be better if it comes from your colleague if you are targeted because it has an extra and that's what we discussed in the beginning about being an ally but it has also an extra benefit and strength when it's not the person who's being targeted who stands up but also others join in.
About when to use it? Basically, you can use it anytime you're following a hateful thread or anytime there is hate speech popping up on your news feed. It can take, just as we talked about it when it came to hate speech about how it can take any form and doesn't necessarily need to be text-based. The same applies to counter-speech so you might not even need to construct a long argument. You can just share an image or-- which are extremely powerful can provide really-- Give offense of another side or give a human side of an issue or you can put a GIF again depending on how you prefer to say it and depending on what you have available at your hand as a response.
It's really where you can go wild in a positive way with your creativity without turning into a harasser yourself. That is very important for counter-speech. Don't become like them. That's not the way to go forward. For counter-speech, you can also use humor. It works great especially if it's spot on but be mindful that humor can differ not only with different languages and countries but also from people to people. It's also a double-edged sword so be careful about that.
While ignoring is not necessarily counter-speech but sometimes it works much better than counter-speech. Especially if the person who's spreading hate on your wall or under your --space has a very little number of followers. Then there is no need to amplify their message by engaging with them. In fact, in many cases haters and trolls, they feed on your attention so give them as little as possible. In this way, you will actually contribute to silencing them.
Another tip for counter-speech is whether you should engage in public by commenting or in private. In my experience sometimes private messages work better if you're not facing a troll. In that case, it's not going to be helpful. The fact that people avoid public humiliation so to say by being proved wrong publicly can be much more effective when it comes to changing their minds and their way of thinking. When you're messaging someone privately you lose the added benefit of counter-speech that it happens publicly and so it also signals for others who see the post that hate speech is not okay. By messaging someone privately you lose the part when you're setting the norm about hate speech being not okay. That's an important consideration.
The third main option of counteraction that we're going to discuss here is counter campaigns. Counter campaigns are basically an organized large scale counter-speech effort so they require planning. They need timing and you need to be very careful when it comes to planning itself. The advantage of counter-campaigns is that because they're organized you can have a measurable impact which is in general very hard to have when it comes to hate speech and they also reach a wider audience as campaigns tend to do. You as a journalist have already a channel and an audience that you can take advantage of so a counter-campaign can be actually a great benefit or addition to your work.
The disadvantage of counter-campaigns is that they require much more effort than an average counter-speech or than a response to hate speech. In general, they are better if organized in teams because you will need to work a lot and you will have a lot of questions to be answered. Which social media channels to use? What are your intended audiences? What are the messages? The best way to share that message? While they need to be measurable in order to be able to evaluate your counter-campaign you can measure likes and tweets and shares but you can still not measure whether you are actually impacting someones thinking or not. Just as for counter-speech, also for counter-campaigns, brace yourself that you might not get a confirmation of the result and you might see rejection and also trigger some more texts.
You can use counter-campaigns anytime you feel like you've had enough time to prepare to launch an actual campaign. It's really a tool that is out there and available for you as long as you prepare enough. About the how, how the planning should be, once again, there is stuff for you under resources. There are excellent guidelines and tool kits for planning a counter-campaign step by step that will be under resources. If that's something you find interesting you can go on further reading and then start discussing with your colleagues who else might be up for it.
To conclude this part on counter-action, there is a road map that we produce for you so you can print it, put it on your wall, have it next to your computer for the times when you're experiencing a hate speech attack to know what to do. As you can see, when it comes to counteraction there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are different ways, different considerations to make that we discussed before. Then, even if you plan everything, you might just feel like one day that you feel like you are ready to engage and really start discussions and other days you feel like, "I just can't be bothered. I don't even want to know," when you just ignore the messages. That's completely fine. You don't need to be a hate speech warrior. What you need to know though and what you need to really do is whenever there is a direct incitement to physical threat you need to save a URL and take a screenshot. This is something that cannot be neglected.
Apart from that, you have your road map to take action now. You know about all the safety precautions that you have to make as prevention and you also understand now what hate speech is. All there is left is to implement those security measures, even if you start with one or two. That is completely fine and keep adding as you go on. Even little is more than zero. Once you feel secure online you can start experiencing with all the different counteractions and counter-speech and forms of counter-campaigns. I think you are prepared now. All that's left is to go back to social media. Go back to the online world. Start experimenting, putting your security first and then it's up to you. Good luck.
Download the presentation used in this module: